“There’s a group of people in caucus who are genuinely concerned about the state of our province’s finances,” said Anderson, MLA for Airdrie-Chestermere. “The basic consensus (of the group) is we need to get our spending under control and have a savings strategy. The general direction is that we need to have a strong fiscal framework, and right now that doesn’t exist.”
The group will use question period and members’ statements– as well as their own caucus meetings–to drive home the message. “There are others in caucus who feel as we do,” he added.
It is not difficult to imagine that a significant element of the ‘Fiscal Four’ production is a staged exercise in PC Party myth-building as public criticism from MLAs is not normally welcomed (as former Cabinet Ministers Heather Forsyth and Guy Boutilier discovered). In September 2009, Fawcett publicly apologized and was quietly penalized for pointing out the obvious after his party’s high-profile candidate was thumped in a Calgary by-election. I do not doubt that these four PC MLAs picture themselves as the very models of modern fiscal conservatives, but until now they have either remained largely silent or have risen in the Assembly to praise their party’s fiscal leadership. I have been told that a similar tactic of external criticism only after internal permission was adopted by the Deep-Six, of which Premier Ed Stelmach was a member.
Premier Stelmach told delegates at the recent PC annual general meeting that his biggest challenge was the not the economy, health care, the environment, or the budget, but the media. A lot of recent media attention has been generated around the Wildrose Alliance, who have been the main beneficiary of the PCs recent drop in public support, and this past weekend leader Danielle Smith spoke to a sold out crowd of 200 Calgary oil and gas sector heavyweights at a breakfast organized by FirstEnergy Capital. Last Friday, Liberal leader David Swann hosted a Calgary fundraiser that drew over 530 attendees (note: that is a lot for a Liberal event in Calgary).
With the internal resources available to them, the ‘Fiscal Four’ have the potential to protect Premier Stelmach by shifting media headlines away from criticism by the opposition parties and his more vocal external critics.